Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Tyler Skaggs case

The news Friday about the death of Tyler Skaggs -- that the Angels pitcher died of a mix of opioid drugs and alcohol -- was saddening but not necessarily shocking.

Nor am I all that surprised by the suggestion from the Skaggs family that the evidence -- not (yet) public -- suggests that Skaggs got the drugs from a team employee.

The high-profile opioid deaths of Prince and Tom Petty followed a certain pattern -- two aging rockers whose bodies had been damaged by years of public performance. They were in pain, and they sought to mute the pain and still perform. Skaggs was a generation younger than them, but the performance imperative was no different.

We don't know if Skaggs was prescribed opioids by a team physician or if he went black-market for them. It may even have been a combination -- he may have been prescribed the painkillers briefly after a surgery, gotten hooked, and sought out a back channel for them after the official medical need for them had passed. That sequence is hardly uncommon in opioid overdoses.

I expect we'll learn more with the passage of time and further official investigation. I also expect that the commissioners office, and perhaps the players union, will take interest in what the Skaggs case reveals about the practice of baseball medicine.

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